When second-year kinesiology major Gauri Deshpande was a child, she would spend hours huddled around the television with her family. Her eyes would dart across the screen as energetic, colorful dance routines grew in size and extravagance.
“Growing up, we’d watch these cheesy Bollywood movies and laugh at them or just have fun [watching] them,” Gauri said.
When Gauri was nine, her mother, who wanted to become a dancer as a child, took note of Gauri’s interest and enrolled her in a Bollywood dance team.
Today, Gauri serves as co-captain of Beach Bollywood, an all-girls dance team at Long Beach State.
According to Tanvi Bollavaram, team co-captain, the main purpose of the club is to create a sense of community and share Indian culture with the campus community.
“I feel like here most people don’t know about Bollywood or Indian culture,” Tanvi said. “So our club is portraying Indian culture through dance.”
Tanvi, a second-year information systems major, is an international student from India and has trained for 10 years in kuchipudi, a classical Indian dance. For her, the club is a way to feel at home in a foreign country.
“It’s hard [being away from home],” Tanvi said. “It’s… like going back to my home place when I dance.”
But for Indian-Americans like Gauri, the team is an opportunity for her to connect to her roots in India, her parents’ home country.
According to Gauri, her active involvement and interest in Bollywood films and music allow her to connect with her relatives in India.
“I feel like Bollywood helped me connect [to my culture],” Gauri said. “It’s definitely like a bridge between cultures.”
But perhaps what’s most important for the co-captains is promoting a sense of community for their team members who are primarily composed of first and second year women who commute to campus daily.
“It’s a sense of community for the girls here,” Gauri said. “A lot of our new girls are freshmen and they’re like, ‘Oh I didn’t even know this existed. I want something to do outside of class.’”
Although Beach Bollywood has danced together for roughly five years, the group was finally recognized as an official club spring 2020. The group performed together for the first time as a recognized club at the Culture Fest hosted by Associated Students Inc. March 5.
On the University Student Union North Lawn, the Beach Bollywood dance team members arranged themselves in straight rows and columns. Vibrant Bollywood music bounced off the walls of the USU as the group exploded into an energetic dance routine. Strings of gold sequins hooked onto their hip wraps jingled along to the lively beats
A sizable crowd huddled around the group with enthusiasm similar to the way Deshpande and her family would do around their television. The routine looked like a scene taken straight out of a Bollywood movie.
Off to the side, a woman watched intently with a bouquet of flowers tucked under her arm. Her eyes followed a dancer adorned in a purple hip wrap— her daughter, Gauri.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” said Gauri’s mom, Priya Deshpande. “It takes a lot, because they grew up here. They’re born here. So I think it’s harder for them to adapt to [Indian] culture and keep it alive. I’m so proud of all the girls [for] keeping it alive.”
The team can be best reached through its Instagram, @CSULBBeachBollywood.